Archive for category evangelism
The gospel rightly preached contains a “built-in” apologetic. In other words, when we get the story of redemption right, human boasting and glory are eliminated, while the stage is simultaneously set so that all the glory goes to the Father for His sovereign plan, to the Son for His righteous life and perfect sacrifice, and to the Holy Spirit for His gracious drawing. But, never to us.
How does this help us in defending and advancing the gospel?
Detractor: How do I know that you are telling me the truth?
Answer from the Gospel: If I had told you that I was such a good person that God had to forgive me, accept me, and let me into heaven one day, then you would have reason to be skeptical. Such words make me look like a pretty good person, so perhaps I would have something to gain by telling you these things. However, that’s not what I told you. I told you that I was such a miserable failure before God, a law-breaker, hostile to Him, with absolutely nothing good to offer Him, that Jesus had to die, spilling his blood on the cross, as my substitute so that I could go free.
Not only does this sort of answer disarm at least the questioner’s suspicion about your motives, but it also gives an opportunity to once again clarify the gospel to this individual. It may not solve all of his intellectual questions, but it does speak to his heart. Remember, humanity’s primary problem is not intellectual; it’s moral.
As the days lead up to my recent trip to California, my wife and I prayed that God would place someone next to me on the airplane, someone that He was preparing to hear the gospel. I took my seat on the connecting flight into Las Vegas and ended up next to an older couple. I began talking to them and asked them simply, “Where are you guys from?” They answered that they were from close to my house and that they have owned a bar for over 25 years. I didn’t let on to my disapproval and continued, “So what draws you out to Las Vegas?” They answered, “We save up all year and spend a month in Vegas, drinking, gambling, and partying. It’s great!” I didn’t have time to say anything before they asked, “And what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a pastor,” I answered gently.
People are astonished when you remember their names, especially in the fast-paced suburban areas of our world. We live in a world where people rarely stop to meet each other, much less allow such a meeting to have a significant impact upon their lives. That’s why I keep one of these in the glove-box of my car. It’s just a simple journal-like notebook, but it allows me to jot down the names of each person I meet throughout my week.
Here’s how it works:
- Each establishment I frequent gets a page in the journal.
- On each page, I write down the person’s name that I met, along with any pertinent information, such as — believer or unbeliever — the date when we met — any mutual friends — any particular matter we “connected” on.
- I then review the names the next time I go to that restaurant, coffee shop, store, gas station, fishing spot, etc.
- I pray through the list regularly, asking God to open their hearts to the gospel and to give me more opportunities to share it with them.
This method helps me to follow the example of Paul in Acts 17:16-17, daily meeting people in the marketplace and then enjoying ongoing relationships that lead to gospel-focused conversations.
Here’s the opening scene from a gospel pamphlet that I recently wrote:
The gavel sounded as the judge pronounced his sentence: “Guilty.” His heart sank. He had hoped that his impeccable driving record, community service, and charitable giving would cause the judge to be lenient. After all, it was only his first offense; he had no previous record of identity theft or murder.
*Special thanks to Karen Greer and Daniel Irmler for the work they put in designing the cover and the layout.
- Translating the KJV into tribal languages so that the people are at least close to the sacred nectar of “the unadulterated 1611.”
- Doing everything in the world relating to your “mission” — building outhouses, bettering the schools, distributing Brita filtering systems, but never explaining the gospel! Can I hear Peace Corps?
- Imposing conservative American culture upon 3rd world countries that already have their own traditions.
- Mistaking #3 for the fruits of salvation, i.e. sanctification.
- Not seeking to convert folks to Christianity, because after all, we are all God’s children! Some just have an Islamic, Hindu, or Buddhist way of expressing it.
- Never learning the language of the people. After all, if people really are going to come to Christ, they will be willing to learn English.
This list needs to be expanded. Do you have any?
This week we have been so busy! Yesterday, we spent some time in Flushing (what seemed like a Little Hong Kong) doing some simple tract distribution. I favor relationally-oriented evangelism, but was reminded how God uses other methods and strategies as well. I offered a Chinese man a tract; he asked me to help him read it! We spent the next 15-20 minutes reading the gospel slowly, while I did my best to explain each concept. Pray that Eric will contact me soon; he now has a Bible!
We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity today; we sang in the middle of Times Square! We sang about six different songs on a rotating basis, while others engaged the listeners with the gospel. Our group spoke with people from Germany, France, Italy, China, Turkey, Greece, Thailand, Barbados, Mexico, and Miami. Of course, that’s just off the top of my head; I’m sure there were more. Here’s some highlights:
- One of the girls in our group was able to speak to a Roman Catholic quite extensively; the man believed the gospel today!
- I was able to, in his own language, share some verses with a French man. At the close of our conversation, Guy told me that he plans to go home to France and purchase a French Bible. He said, “Our conversation confirms in my mind that the Bible is a book I need to read before I die.”
- At least two men heard us from the upper levels of their Manhattan offices and came down just to hear the music. Both men heard the gospel too!
- I am loving getting to spend so much time in fellowship and ministry with other believers!
We were definitely the best-dressed musicians in the area today, since the closest other “musician” is known only by the name “The Naked Cowboy.” What a strange world we live in…a place where a man can show up in essentially his underwear, strum a guitar, make good money, and call it his job!
The question almost haunted me all day. As I walked through NYC — business district, parks, Chinatown, Little Italy — and saw people from every culture imaginable, I simply wondered, “Dave, are you relevant?” I saw about a million obsessively in-shape joggers, a culture with which I am definitely not a part. The homeless, I saw many of course. Businessmen and vendors, again, we saw many. I even saw a man wearing a glorified velvet bathrobe, a wizard hat, and a hopelessly fake wand; he claimed to be the “Dragon Master.”
How could I possibly ever be relevant to a guy who claims to be the “Dragon Master?” I walked through the city, moved with compassion, but growing increasingly discouraged by my seeming lack of relevance.
Things began to change when I ran into an Anglican seminarian at a bookstore in midtown. We started talking about our favorite theologians. I named a few, and then he began to tell me that his favorites are Marcus Borg as well as some within the Jesus seminar movement. He continued to explain to me that my literal approach to the Scriptures excludes so many good Jewish and Islamic folks who will inhabit heaven with us, because the sacrifice of Jesus actually saves them too, whether they realize it or not.
As I reflect on that interaction tonight, I’m reminded that my relevance has little to do with me. Not my personality. Not my style of clothing. The gospel makes me relevant and Jesus has made me an able minister of it.
1 Corinthians 3:5-6a:
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament…
That means that by virtue of the fact that God has made me an able minister of the new covenant, and by virtue of the fact that the gospel is the only message by which anyone can or will be saved, I am relevant. Even to the Dragon Master.